Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet
by Dan Vogel
Alma, Church Founder
It may have been the rejection and persecution by Harmony Methodists that led Joseph Smith to contemplate founding his own church. But if he were to begin baptizing, by what or whose authority would he be able to proceed? He was not a clergyman, he had never submitted to baptism himself. In the Book of Mormon, Abinadi’s martyrdom is followed by an account of how Alma organized a church in the wilderness. King Benjamin had previously appointed priests who exhorted his people to obey the commandments (Mosiah 6:3), but it was Alma who founded the first church in the Book of Mormon, which he established first in the wilderness and then in the city of Zarahemla (18:18; 23:16; 29:47). In Alma’s story, we see what are probably Joseph’s earliest reflections on the topic, including questions about church governance and religious authority. The answers to these questions moved him closer to the views of his father and to those of his uncle Jason Mack.
In fleeing the anger of King Noah, Alma retreated to a secluded place called “Mormon, having received its name from the king, being in the borders of the land having been infested, by times or at seasons, by wild beasts” (18:4). The land of Mormon had “a fountain of pure water” and a nearby “thicket of small trees” where Alma was able to hide. Smith may have had in mind a location in Harmony—a fresh water spring that existed between his house and the Susquehanna River to the south.1
From his hiding place, Alma begins to preach the words of Abinadi, secretly teaching the people about salvation through Christ. Those who believe Alma are drawn to hear more of his teachings. One day Alma stands before what has become an encampment of two hundred and four people and invites them to be baptized—the first mention of baptism in the Book of Mormon. “Behold, here are the waters of Mormon,” Alma declares. “What have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” (18:8, 10). Benjamin had recorded the names of his covenantors, but Alma would require baptism.
King Benjamin’s covenant included a social contract to care for the poor and needy. Alma’s baptismal covenant required a willingness to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” (18:8). Significantly, members of the Methodist class were instructed to “bear one another’s burdens.”2 Whereas Benjamin’s covenant dealt exclusively with obedience to God’s commandments, Alma’s covenant represented a willingness to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life” (v. 9). The mention of death may again reflect Smith’s heightened concern for the possibility of danger and a hint to Cowdery to remain committed to the project despite threats (cf. D&C 6:30).
Alma subsequently takes Helam into the water. In this first mention of baptism, the author struggles with the concept of authority and how to found a church. As Alma and Helam stand in the water, Alma prays: “O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart.” The “Spirit of the Lord” comes upon Alma, who says: “Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world” (18:13). At this point, “both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit” (v. 14). Alma then baptizes others “by the power and authority of God” but refrains from immersing himself again (vv. 15-17).
Self-baptism was not an entirely foreign concept in Smith’s day—it had sometimes been practiced by those who questioned religious authority and rejected the professional clergy. John Smyth, leader of a sect of English Separatists in Amsterdam, Holland, was criticized for baptizing himself in 1609.3 Robert Richardson reported several instances of “self-baptism” during the early decades of the nineteenth century. “A certain John Moore … repairing one day to a stream of water in a secluded place, where he thought no human eye could see him, he went through the usual forms and immersed himself. This, indeed, is not, even in the United States, the only instance of an individual becoming, both religiously and etymologically, a self-baptist.”4Significantly, Alma—although he had been a priest of King Noah—seeks additional authority through the Spirit. In the same way, Smith too would reject the authority of the established churches, saying that God’s authority did not come with theological degrees and man-made ceremonies but through the Spirit. Like Alma, he sought the kind of authority that Jesus promised his disciples when he instructed them to remain at Jerusalem “until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Religious hypocrites could never possess this kind of authority.
This was the approval that many Seekers expected, although some also anticipated angelic ministration.5 Cleric John Saltmarsh, for example, wrote of English Seekers in 1647: “They wait in this time of apostasy … as the apostles and disciples at Jerusalem, till they were endued with power from on high. … They wait for an apostle or angel.”6 Roger Williams declared in 1652: “No man ever did nor ever shall truly go forth to convert the nations but by the gracious inspiration and instigation of the holy Spirit of God. … The apostles themselves did not attempt that mighty enterprise, but waited at Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit descended on them, and enabled them for that mighty work.”7 The Seeker’s expectation that religious authority would be restored is reflected in early Mormon convert John Murdock’s comment that he concluded prior to the 1830 arrival of Mormon missionaries in the Ohio Reserve that “the Lord must either send an angel to baptize the first man, or he must give a special command to some one man to baptize another.”8
Joseph Smith’s situation was not unlike that of Alma’s. Both had been convicted of their sins through the prophets’ words, both condemned the established priesthood, and both sought refuge from persecution in the wilderness.9 Smith had already received “power from on high” in connection with the translation of the gold plates (D&C 20:8). Was this sufficient to baptize? He was waiting for further instruction. Meanwhile, the stage had been set.
Alma’s converts became the “church of God, or the church of Christ” (18:17), the “church of God” reflecting New Testament terminology (e.g., Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 11:16). While the “church of Christ” was the implied meaning for some, by explicitly equating God with Christ, Smith not only expressed a kind of primitivism regarding the name of the church but fashioned a subtle argument against Unitarianism.10
The church that Alma founded included a hierarchy wherein he was the head and four priests, each of whom he ordained, served under him, each one presiding over fifty members (18:18). Alma maintained tight control over doctrine and commanded the priests that “they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets” (v. 19). Echoing the revelation Smith received for Cowdery, Alma admonishes the priests to “preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people” (v. 20; D&C 6:9). This is in about 147 B.C. according to the Book of Mormon. Alma’s church gathers on the Sabbath (v. 23).
Unlike the sectarian strife Smith observed during Palmyra’s revival, Alma’s church would have “no contention” and priests would not argue “one with another, but … look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism [Eph. 4:5], having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (18:21). The years of discord and tension Smith had experienced at home rendered him intolerant of contention or debate and instilled in him a yearning for peace and harmony. He clearly rejected the democratic impulse that had overtaken many American churches and favored hierarchical, theocratic leadership. Indeed, there is little room for debate in a church where all authority rests with the leader.
Rejecting the affluence he had enjoyed as one of Noah’s priests, Alma commands that “the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support … [and] not to depend upon the people for their support” (18:24, 26). He instructs his priests to seek only for the “grace of God” as their reward (v. 26). Smith’s aversion to a professional clergy was inherited from his father, who refused to pay the minister’s tax in Vermont.11
Joseph and his father were not alone in criticizing the professional clergy. Unitarian Jason Whitman observed in 1834 that “the Book of Mormon is with some art adapted to the known prejudices of a portion of the community” including, among others, “a strong prejudice against the support, by the people, of a regular ministry.”12 Alexander Campbell saw the clergy of the old-line churches as “hirelings” who sought “worldly power and dominion.”13 “Was there ever such a craft as priestcraft?” Campbell asked readers of the Christian Baptist in 1823. “No, it is the craftiest of all crafts! It is so crafty that it obtains by its craft the means to make craftsmen, and then it makes the deluded support them!”14 In 1826, he reiterated: “That any man is to be hired for a stipulated sum to preach and pray, and expound the scripture, by the day, month, or year, I believe to be a relic of popery.”15
Finally, Alma instructs members of his church to support the poor, to “impart of their substance, everyone according to that which he had” (18:27-28). Having been raised in poverty, Smith was especially sensitive on this point, which had become the hallmark for him of true religion. This is indicated in his criticism of Henry Jessup’s treatment of a poor widow. It is likely that Smith held the same opinion of Harmony’s Methodists, especially of Isaac Hale, who had nearly evicted him from his own house.
When at last the king learned of Alma’s camp meetings, he sent his army to destroy them, but not before Alma’s group of 450 is tipped off, packs up their tents, and flees even further into the wilderness. They not only escape capture but succeed in locating Zarahemla. Meanwhile, following the return of the king’s army, the people are said to rise up to overthrow Noah and put his righteous son Limhi in power. Given the situation that Smith found himself in with regard to his own father, the demise of an unrighteous father and succession of a righteous son were powerful symbols.
Noah’s overthrow began with the rebellion of a small portion of his army. The coup was led by Gideon, perhaps named after the hero-warrior of Judges,16 who “being a strong man and an enemy to the king, … drew his sword, and swore in his wrath that he would slay the king” (19:4). Gideon corners the monarch in a tower near the temple, where he is about to kill him when Noah notices the approach of the Lamanite army and pleads for his life.17 Unaware of Abinadi’s prediction that the king would die by fire (12:3, 10; 13:10), Gideon spares Noah’s life, believing that in such a crisis, the king’s leadership would be essential to saving lives.
Noah immediately orders the people to flee into the wilderness. When the Lamanites overtake and begin to slay Noah’s people, he orders the men to abandon their families. Some offer their daughters as ransom for their lives (19:13-14). Seduced by the white-skinned Nephite women, the Lamanites allow the refugees to return to their city, provided they deliver King Noah into their hands and pay an annual tribute of one-half of their possessions.
Limhi sends Gideon and his men into the wilderness in search of the king. They overtake those who fled with Noah and learn that a conflict had arisen among them and the king had been burned at the stake (19:20)—thus fulfilling Abinadi’s prediction (17:8). However, Noah’s priests escape into the wilderness. Two years later, they resurface to capture twenty-four Lamanite women, carrying them into the wilderness to become their wives (19:29; 20:1-26).
Despite Noah’s demise, the Nephites are no better off under Limhi’s rule, and the Lamanites continue to pester them, driving them “as they would a dumb ass” (21:3). Limhi’s people finally attempt a revolt but are unsuccessful. The situation humbles them so that, when Ammon arrives, they “were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts. … But there was none in the land that had authority from God,” meaning spiritual authority like Alma’s (21:25, 33). “And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant” (v. 33). Significantly, Ammon worries about spiritual worthiness but not about ordination. Limhi and his people “did not at that time form themselves into a church, waiting upon the Spirit of the Lord” (v. 34).
After paying a tribute of wine to the Lamanite soldiers stationed to guard the city of Nephi, Limhi’s people—and Ammon—escape with their flocks through a secret passage in the city’s wall. The Lamanite army pursues them for two days until “they could no longer follow their tracks” (22:16). It seems unlikely that trackers could lose the trail of an entire city and their flocks and not soon overtake the slower-moving group. But on this note, Mormon concludes his abridgment of the record of Zeniff.
Mormon includes “an account of Alma and the people of the Lord, who were driven into the wilderness by the people of king Noah” (Mosiah 23-24). On the eighth day of their flight into the wilderness, according to this account, Alma and his people reach “a very beautiful and pleasant land, a land of pure water” (23:3, 4) where they establish the city Helam, named after Alma’s first convert.
The people want to make Alma king, but he declines for two reasons. First, quoting from an unknown source, Alma says that God has commanded the following: “Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another” (23:7). Second, Alma fears that successive kings might exercise their authority unrighteously (vv. 8-15; cf. 1 Sam. 8:6-22). Instead, Alma establishes a theocracy which will operate under his control as high priest of the church. “And … none received authority to preach or to teach except it were by [Alma] from God. Therefore he consecrated all their priests and all their teachers; and none were consecrated except they were just men” (v. 17). The point here is that Alma does not bestow authority on his priests to ordain others; all church officers are Alma’s subordinates and dependant on his reception of charismatic authority. How this theocracy was less susceptible to unrighteous dominion than a monarchy is not explained.
The prosperity of Helam is short-lived, for Lamanites soon discover the city. When a Lamanite army appears, Alma has no alternative but to surrender and deliver the city over to their control.18 The Lamanites place soldiers throughout Helam as guards and appoint Noah’s priests, whom they found in the wilderness, to rule over Alma’s people. Ironically, the priests have won over the Lamanites because they abducted Lamanite women to be their wives. Still, Smith would understand this situation, having eloped with Emma, who thereafter was the only thing standing between him and Isaac’s wrath. From Isaac’s point of view, Joseph, within two years of having met Emma (cf. 19:29), had sneaked back into town and “stolen” his daughter. In pleading with the Lamanite army for their husbands, the Lamanite women reveal that they are no longer captives but voluntary wives. Emma had done likewise with Joseph. Thus, through marriage, former enemies became uncomfortable allies.19
Much like the Christian missionaries did for the American Indian, Noah’s priests teach the Nephite language to the Lamanites and civilize them. Yet, the priests are wicked and do not teach the true religion. Civilization brings prosperity, but the Lamanites remain morally unchanged. This was likely Smith’s critique of the Puritan/Protestant missions to the Indians.
The Lamanite king appoints Amulon, one of Alma’s former colleagues in Noah’s priesthood, to be a king over Alma’s people. Soon Amulon and his priests begin to persecute Alma’s people. Much as the Egyptians do to the children of Israel, Amulon “put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them” (24:9; cf. Exod. 1:11). Amulon commands that anyone found calling on God should be put to death (v. 11).
At last the “voice of the Lord” comes to Alma’s people, either collectively or through Alma as their representative, saying: “Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage” (24:16). God gives a Moses-like command to Alma personally: “Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go with thee and deliver this people out of bondage” (v. 17).
As Alma’s people gather their flocks and prepare for escape, God causes a “deep sleep” to come upon their guards and taskmasters (24:19). When the refugees reach a nearby valley, which they call the valley of Alma, God tells Alma: “Haste thee and get thou and this people out of this land, for the Lamanites have awakened and do pursue thee” (v. 23). After a twelve-day journey,20 Alma and his people reach the city of Zarahemla.
By chance, they arrive at about the same time Limhi’s group arrives, and both groups become subjects of King Mosiah, who allows Alma to “establish churches throughout the land of Zarahemla,” seven in all (25:19, 23).21 Limhi and his people come forward to be baptized by Alma (v. 18), signifying their membership in the church (v. 23). Whereas Alma has the authority, through the spirit, to baptize, it is Mosiah who gives him “authority over the church” (26:8) and “power to ordain priests and teachers over every church” (25:19). This reverses the medieval notion that the king derives authority from the church, in this case Mosiah being both king and prophet. Some people in Smith’s day idealized the old Puritan oligarchy, but even so, most Americans were opposed to theocracy. Nevertheless, there were individuals who advanced schemes to blend religion and politics. In his 4 July 1827 sermon, Presbyterian minister Ezra Stiles Ely proposed “a Christian party in politics” to ensure that only men of faith and good moral character would hold office. Smith’s vision was more radical. As will become increasingly clear, Smith was not satisfied to leave public office to men of high character and religious bearing but wanted to completely overturn the existing order and install inspired men–prophets–to rule as kings.22
Even though Alma received authority from King Mosiah, Alma is credited with founding the church (29:47), and church governance remains the same as it had been in the wilderness and at Helam. Alma is sole leader of the church and has complete control over its teachings and in appointing priests who would teach “the word according as it was delivered to [them] by the mouth of Alma” (25:21). Alma again discourages acrimony by limiting theological discussion, commanding the various churches to teach nothing “except it were repentance and faith in God” (v. 22).
Not unlike second-generation Puritans, Mosiah’s younger generation does not exhibit the same firm faith as their parents and refuses to be baptized (26:1-4). Unbelievers begin to influence Alma’s church through “flattering words” (v. 6). Unsure how to handle unrepentant members (vv. 7-12), Alma earnestly prays about the matter and receives a revelation in which God instructs him to allow the repentant to remain in the church but to excommunicate the unrepentant: “Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (v. 30). Those who do not confess their sins and repent, “the same shall not be numbered among my people” (v. 32). Thus, Alma—like Smith—receives a direct revelation from God in order to solve a pressing problem.
In response to increased persecution, King Mosiah sends out a proclamation forbidding anyone from abusing church members (27:1-5). This momentarily alleviates a tense situation. But Mosiah soon learns that his own sons—Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni—together with one of Alma’s sons, Alma II, are sowing discord and contention among the churches. Their conversion story is patterned after that of Paul in Acts 9:1-31. As the five young men are on their way to persecute the church, an angel appears and thunders: “Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: This is my church and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people” (27:13). Following the vision, Alma—like those who experienced the falling power at revivals—is unable to speak or move, and his companions are compelled to carry him to his father.
After Alma and his priests fast and pray for two days and two nights, young Alma recovers, stands up, and proclaims that he has repented and become “born of the Spirit” (27:24). Alluding to the teachings of Abinadi, young Alma declares that all people must be “born of God” and become “his sons and daughters” or else “they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (vv. 25-26). He eloquently describes his own transformation:
After wandering through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God. My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more. (27:28-29)
Describing Alma’s anguish with such remarkable feeling, one has to wonder if what Smith has given is a veiled account of his own conversion. He said in his 1832 history that prior to his first vision, he had been “convicted of his sins,” and this led him to “mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world.” These words fail to convey the depth of his feelings. Perhaps through Alma, who like Smith was named after his father, Joseph gave vent to what he was otherwise unable to express. His early Universalist leanings probably led him, like Alma the younger, to reject Jesus as a “Redeemer” (27:30), but after his first vision or dream experience, he came to declare with Alma and Paul that “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him … that he is God … [and] that the judgement of an everlasting punishment is just upon them” (v. 31; cf. Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10).
Repenting of their former iniquities, Alma and the sons of Mosiah become preachers of righteousness, traveling throughout King Mosiah’s realm and “zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church, confessing all their sins, and publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them” (27:35). Smith may have felt a similar obligation to repair the damage he had done as a treasure seer and Universalist. Alma and the others become “instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer” (v. 36). This was Smith’s desire as well.
Again alluding to Abinadi’s anti-Universalist teachings, Alma and his fellow missionaries receive the following praise: “And how blessed are they! For they did publish peace; they did publish good tidings of good; and they did declare unto the people that the Lord reigneth” (27:37).
Like Smith, the sons of Mosiah desire to become missionaries to the Lamanites and hope that “perhaps they might cure them of their hatred towards the Nephites” (28:2). A reluctant Mosiah grants their request, having received God’s promise for their safe return (vv. 7-8). Mosiah’s sons depart into the wilderness for Lamanite territory.
Before handing over the records and interpreters to Alma II, who will succeed his father as the high priest (29:42), Mosiah translates the twenty-four gold plates found by Limhi’s people. His method is not unlike Smith’s, for “he translated [the plates] by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow” (28:13). Like Smith, he may have dictated his translation, for he “translated and caused to be written the records” (v. 11). Mosiah finds that the plates tell the history of a fallen race that was destroyed in a great war because of their sins, just like the story on the gold plates Smith is translating. Specifically, Mosiah discovers that the record is “an account of the people who were destroyed, from the time that they were destroyed back to the building of the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and they were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, yea, and even from that time back until the creation of Adam” (v. 17).
At this point, Mormon chooses not to go into any more detail about the record but promises that “this account shall be written hereafter” (28:19). The promise is fulfilled near the close of the Book of Mormon when Moroni, Mormon’s son, abridges this record as part of the Book of Ether.
Mosiah’s sons refuse the throne and Mosiah abandons the idea of a monarchy, although not altogether. Reminiscent of Alma’s rejection of a monarchy, he reasons: “If it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you. … Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just, it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you” (29:13, 16).
Mosiah reverses Israelite history by inaugurating rule by judges with elements of American jurisprudence—a two-tiered system of higher and lower judges appointed by “the voice of the people” (29:25-40). Mosiah’s confidence in the democratic principle would have been shared by many Americans: “Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right” (v. 26). There is always the possibility that the people—the nation as a whole—will become corrupt and vote accordingly. In that event, if “the people doth choose iniquity,” Mosiah adds, “then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land” (v. 27).
In the wake of Andrew Jackson’s election the previous year, Mosiah’s words constituted a warning to Americans of Joseph Smith’s day. As one of the dirtiest campaigns in American history, Jackson had been unfairly portrayed as an irreligious, unprincipled murderer, as well as a member of the subversive and sinister Freemason organization.23 On 11 January 1828, the Wayne Sentinel reported that Jackson’s opponents were predicting that his election would be one of “the harbingers of ruin, and the indication of the early downfall of this great republic.” On 30 May that same year, the Sentinel reported the speech of Secretary of State Henry Clay in which he implored a Baltimore audience to “solemnly pause and contemplate the precipice which yawns before us!” If Jackson were elected, it would incur “divine displeasure,” Clay said, and God might find it “necessary to chastise this people with the rod of his vengeance.”
It is doubtful that Smith took comfort in the fact that his choices for president in 1828 were incumbent John Quincy Adams, a Unitarian, and Andrew Jackson, a Mason. Of the two, Jackson was evidently cause for most concern because, if not for his Masonic affiliation alone, then because of his party’s secular approach to governing. Jacksonians opposed evangelical efforts to codify Christian values from temperance to the transportation of mail on Sundays. Responding to the Sabbatarians petitioning congress for the discontinuance of Sunday mail, Richard M. Johnson represented the Jacksonian position when he declared in a speech to the U.S. senate on 19 January 1829: “It is not the legitimate province of the legislature to determine what religion is true, or what is false. Our government is a civil, and not a religious institution.”24Johnson’s widely published report was met with chagrin by evangelical Protestants. Lyman Beecher declared in his Boston paper, Spirit of the Pilgrims: “Whoever contended with his Maker and prospered? Does He not hold at his disposal all the sources of nation prosperity, and all the engines of national chastisement?”25 Indeed, it must have seemed to Smith, as it did for many evangelical Protestants, that America was ripening for destruction.
The Book of Mosiah ends with a non-violent change of government in reporting the deaths of King Mosiah and Alma the elder and announcing the reign of Alma II as the first chief judge about 91 B.C. Now that Alma II holds the highest religious and political offices, all pretense of separation of church and state has been obliterated. In contrast, Joseph Smith’s America had elected Andrew Jackson, and to the dismay of many evangelical Protestants Jackson’s party was moving the nation increasingly toward secularization.26
10. Interestingly, when Unitarians published their own New Testament in the first decade of the nineteenth century, the directive in Acts 20:28 to “feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” was changed to “church of the Lord” (The New Testament, in an Improved Version, upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome’s New Translation: With a Corrected Text, and Notes Critical and Explanatory. Published by the Unitarian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge … [Boston, 1809], 321), which was roundly criticized by William Magee as a “pious fraud” that could be “safely dismissed” (Discourses and Dissertations on the Scribal Doctrines of Atonement and Sacrifice [New York: James Eastburn, 1813], 491-97).
18. An unlikely situation arises when Smith explains that the Lamanite army had accidentally discovered Alma’s people after chasing Limhi’s group into the wilderness and getting lost. Unable to find their way back to the city of Nephi, the Lamanites asked Alma for directions (23:30, 36-37).
22. Ezra Stiles Ely, The Duty of Christian Freemen to Elect Christian Rulers (Philadelphia, 1828). Smith’s theocratic ideals persisted throughout his life. In the months prior to his death, Smith’s preference for theocracy surfaced when he began secretly to organize the Council of Fifty to administer the “political kingdom of God” and had himself ordained as “King, Priest and Ruler over Israel on Earth.” See D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 120-39.
24. Public Documents (Printed by order of the Senate of the U.S. at the 2nd Session, 20th Congress, 1828-29), number , 19 Jan. 1829, abridged, as ptd. in John F. Wilson and Donald L. Drakeman, eds., Church and State in American History: The Burden of Religious Pluralism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987), 103. On the Jacksonian insistence on the complete separation of church and state, or the principle of religious nonintervention, see Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Age of Jackson (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1945), 350-60; Daniel Walker Howe, “Religion and Politics in the Antebellum North,” in Mark A. Noll, ed., Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the 1980s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 132; Daniel Feller, The Jacksonian Promise: America, 1815-1840 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1995), 183; and Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), 185-89. On the Book of Mormon’s general anti-Jackson stance, see Dan Vogel, “Mormonism’s ‘Anti-Masonick Bible,’” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 9 (1989): 17-30.
25. “Review of Mr. Johnson’s Report on Sabbath Mails,” Spirit of the Pilgrims 2 (March 1829): 156; and “Dangerous Combinations,” 2 (July 1829): 352-59. On evangelical opposition to Jackson, see Edward Pessen, Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics (Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press, 1969), 80; Harry L. Watson, Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1990), 57; and Robert P. Swierenga, “Ethnoreligious Political Behavior in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: Voting, Values, Cultures,” in Noll, Religion and American Politics, 158.
26. In subsequent chapters (17, 18, 19, 22), it will become clear that the Book of Mormon is essentially anti-Jacksonian. Some have objected to this interpretation, especially as it pertains to Jackson’s Masonic membership, since Mormons became supporters of Jackson in 1832 and Masons in the 1840s (e.g., Daniel C. Peterson, “Notes on ‘Gadianton Masonry,’” in Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin, eds., Warfare in the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.; and Provo, UT: FARMS, 1990), 181-82, 200, 203). In Ohio, Mormons found that they had no choice but to support Jackson because local government was dominated by anti-Masons and National Republicans (later Whigs) who were also anti-Mormon. While there is no completely satisfying or consistent explanation for Joseph Smith’s conversion to Masonry in Illinois in 1842, membership had distinct political and economic rewards. Nevertheless, the contradiction was quickly noted by one of Smith’s former followers. For a more complete response to these issues, see Dan Vogel, “Echoes of Anti-Masonry: A Rejoinder to Critics of the Anti-Masonic Thesis,” in Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe, eds., American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 297-98, 305.